Our fascination with social media gets a lot of flack, justifiably so in some respects. Having long ago succumbed to its lure, I do wonder whether by focusing on the pitfalls we sometimes miss out on celebrating the opportunities it hands us.
I’ve highlighted six of the sometimes hidden ways in which social media can be useful. These don’t stem from someone who has mastered the art of good social media etiquette – as anyone who follows me will know – but more born from a few observations and the odd – and often unexpected – moments when God has taken something small and done something rather good.
To you, these may be new or old news. There are many more uses besides, so if you have anything further to add, post them below.
1. Sharing resource
Our timelines can be full of great resources. Depending on who you follow and befriend, they can be a hive of good, useful and thought-provoking articles, videos, books, ideas, and the like. This has been invaluable for me. Last year, I bought a handy little book after someone posted a picture of it on Instagram, showed a video to small group after seeing it on Facebook, and found a new independent coffee shop near my work after someone tweeted about it. Lo, I even heard about threads after someone tweeted the good news of its birth. Keep sharing a selection of things you read and see and do and visit. You may find that your friends are eternally grateful you did.
2. Verses, quotes and testimony
This can be a prickly one. It can feel like overload, with Instagram feeds full of favourite verses and quotes artfully inscribed against picturesque backgrounds. This is a no-go area for many, which I can understand. For those that do enter this territory, though, it should be celebrated. I love exploring the ways we can be creative, thoughtful and heartfelt with the stories and thoughts we share on social media. This can really help captivate the minds and hearts of our audience, perhaps having an impact that far exceeds our own expectations.
3. New friends
I have a friend who, being a big Neighbours fan, last year tweeted a musical suggestion to Alan Fletcher (aka Karl Kennedy). To cut a long story short, that tweet was the beginning of a burgeoning friendship, leading to a photography trip to Iceland they took together in January. Crazy, hey? While this is an extreme example, it does illustrate the way social media has the potential to connect people from all over the world who have shared interests. Follow people who interest you. Commend their work. Ask questions. Perhaps share ideas. Tred wisely, you never know where the journey may lead.
Cyber-space can be a lonely place at times. Often we produce an article, thought or anecdote that we feel has fallen on deaf ears. But I like to think that more often than not our feeds have a bigger impact than we see. If someone shares something that notably connects with you, or you sense took a lot of courage to share, encourage them. A simple ‘like’ doesn’t always do justice to the impact their contribution has made, though. The convenience of a click or tap-tap can too often be at the expense of offering words that could powerfully encourage someone in their work.
5. Succinctly put
This is a useful one for the writers out there. Having a 140-character limit to tweets has made me realise how I use far more words than necessary to make a point. There is a charm to keeping words simple and succinct, particularly in an age where so much demands our attention. Let social media help refine and quicken your words, be it in the thoughts you share with the world or as a template to keep in mind when writing.
6. Prayer and saying ‘Hello!’
This one was brought to my attention as one of the recent 40acts. Scrolling through our feeds can take on a hurried and passing tone; our eyes waiting to capture words, images and videos that stimulate our interest, before quickly moving on. I am trying to make time for less extensive, but more slow and thoughtful, scrolls through my Facebook timeline; to engage a little more in the stories being shared; to not pass by, but to stop and perhaps let what I see inform a prayer, prompt a DM or provide a discussion starter for when we next meet. One post we stop at could be the window that opens into a deeper relationship, perhaps one that for years had been lost.
Social media gives us a tremendous place to glorify God, honour each other, and hear of one or two new roads to explore for ourselves. For those who use it, we should remain conscious of its subtle dangers, but also equally aware of the often-unappreciated opportunities it offers us.